Friday, October 24, 2008

The Joys of Writing a Book

I have previously posted JUnit information on this blog. The entries are now in the process of becoming chapters in a book.

I don't have a contract with a publisher, but at this point I'm not worried. From previous experience with the world of computer book publishing, I know that the publishers prefer to start looking at a manuscript after you've written a quarter to a third of the material. This helps reassure them that you're serious and not just wishing to write a book, but have actually invested some sweat equity in the project.

I may not even bother talking to any publishers. The wonders of modern technology mean that on-demand publishing through the likes of combines nicely with the ability to produce professional-quality typesetting using the LaTeX application. As the newsletter editor for the state for our church organization I'm used to layout and typesetting (using Adobe InDesign), but LaTeX continues to amaze me every time I see it render my documents.

As I come towards the end of the fifth chapter, I am planning to print what I have so far through the services of and see how it looks when I've done everything myself. If it looks good, then I may just finish the book and plan to sell it myself. If my self-promotion efforts fall flat, then I can still fall back on talking to the publishers. At the worst, it should be good fun.

The process of writing has been fun. As a young fellow, I never enjoyed writing, but these days I quite enjoy it and only lack of time slows me down. Previous years of blogging helped me to find my writing voice. I'm sure professors of English Literature could pick my style apart, but I like it and feel no need to change. While I'm quite happy editing my own writing and even get ruthless with myself, I don't enjoy huge changes. One of my co-workers read an early draft of the first five chapters and suggested a big change. It made sense, and I'm in the process of finishing the edit, but I haven't enjoyed it.

I started the book using a plain text editor, then I tried using Microsoft Word and one of the free templates from Lulu, but a couple of months ago I switched to LaTeX to get the professional layouts. While it takes time to get used to not using a WYSIWYG editor, I find it actually speeds me up as I no longer worry about the layout when I'm working on the text. The LaTeX application and the selection of document class will take care of most of that for me. It feels very liberating.

For those who have never used LaTeX, it is powerful, but complex. Simple documents are not too bat to produce, but here I'm using lots of included packages, non-standard page sizes and specifying lots of layout details. Thank goodness for Internet search engines and bloggers who describe the details of how they've published their own works. Once I get this figured to my own satisfaction, I shall add to their efforts and write my own "How to write and publish a book using LateX" post.

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